A charity has said it is "appalled" after a council defunded its domestic abuse support services for women.

North Lanarkshire Council signed a new £1.4 million contract with community justice organisation Sacro, which it says will better help male victims and is "most economically advantageous".

A review into the help available in the region concluded in January last year, with a tendering process following suit.

However, Women's Aid, which has now lost out on funding, says it has had the rug pulled out from under the feet of its "long-established and trusted" services.

Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “We are appalled at the callous steps North Lanarkshire Council have taken in recent months that have pulled the rug out from under the feet of long-established, trusted Women’s Aid services.

"While Women’s Aid services were busy responding to Covid-19 to continue providing their vital support for women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse in North Lanarkshire, they were met with hostility in unnecessary, competitive tendering processes from North Lanarkshire Council that lacked both transparency and accountability.

“This did not have to happen and the result is that North Lanarkshire is now the only local authority area in Scotland that does not commission Women’s Aid services – a sad reflection of their complete lack of understanding of the complex nature of domestic abuse and an upsetting dismissal of decades of work by grass-roots, local Women’s Aid services who are trusted and respected within their communities.

“Women in Scotland have felt a disproportionate impact of Covid-19 – whether in unpaid care work, home schooling, job losses or homelessness.

"All of those impacts are compounded for women and children living with domestic abuse. It is incomprehensible to us that North Lanarkshire Council have taken the decisions they have, in the full knowledge that this will further disadvantage those women and children by disrupting their access to specialist support around domestic abuse.

“We will continue to communicate with elected members about our concerns around the tender process, and we intend to publish those communications in due course.

"Given the severity of the situation, and the direct risk to the rights and protections of women and children experiencing domestic abuse, we are also carefully considering the legal options available to us.” 

Calling the council's decision "devastating", SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor wrote to convenor of the Education and Families Committee Cllr Frank McNally urging the consideration of women who may "fall through the gaps".

He said: "I know you will agree that Women's Aid services play a very important role in our communities. I am concerned that effective removal of these services would impact on women and children experiencing domestic violence and in seeking support and protection."

Mr MacGregor said he held SACRO in "very high esteem", but expressed concerns that a number of women might find it difficult to place their faith in services alien to them.

He added: "I am concerned that some women may not associate their work with supporting women directly impacted by domestic violence in the same way that Women's Aid does."

The move affects Monklands Women’s Aid, Motherwell District Women’s Aid and North Lanarkshire Women’s Aid.

But thanks to other sources of funding, none of the groups will have to close their doors.

Nonetheless, Women's Aid claims their capacity will be affected by the council's decision, and will be forced to rely on more short-term, "precarious" funding streams.

As a result, Monklands Women's Aid has set up a fundraising page, asking for support to provide domestic abuse services.

A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council said: “It is simply untrue for Women’s Aid to suggest that the council has anything other than the welfare of people who require support in mind.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, the council has not withdrawn any grant funding from Women’s Aid.

"A tender was issued in accordance with procurement regulations for these services and Women’s Aid chose to bid for that contract on a commercial basis.

"Women’s Aid were not successful in their bid for the contract. We will continue to work with local women’s aid groups for other services such as refuge provision.”

You can find Monklands Women's Aid gofundme page here.